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The Indian Economy (Page 37)

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The Indian elections will likely produce a shift of the kaleidoscope again. No one really knows what the new political outcome will be. Who had predicted, for instance, that the BJP would lose to a Congress Party that had been declared dead as a dodo but which came back from the ashes, true to the Indian belief in rebirth. But, leaving the chaos of coalitional politics aside, there is something that we can say about that election and what we might expect in this one. Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer was a slogan given to Indians by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1965. At that point, India under attack by Pakistan and India was facing a scarcity of food grains. Mr. Shastri gave the slogan to enthuse soldiers to defend India and simultaneously cheer farmers to do their best to increase grain production to reduce dependence on imports. It became a very popular slogan and taught Indians to give their farmers and soldiers the respect they deserve. Cut to the nineties, and being a soldier or a farmer was pass. You only joined the army or stayed back in the villages if you did not make it to the civil service or secure a multinational job in one of the major cities of India. Indians imbibed the virtues of capitalism single-mindedly and the only benchmark of respect became your net worth, the car you drive and the number of foreign holidays you took. It was a phase when the suave, MBA, English-speaking professional and the aggressive Indian entrepreneur were going to make India the next global economic giant, and the farmer was a forgotten commodity to be remembered every 5 years at election time by politicians to secure votes by making false promises which were never to be delivered on. The armed forces, too, completely lost all their glamor and aura and were only delegated to the protection of our politicians. However, the recent increased covert attacks by Pakistan on India, especially the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and the brave counter by our commandos has restored enormous nationalist pride in the young Indian, who now feels a great sense of duty to the nation. Also, slowly over the last 15 years, there has been a quiet re-distribution of wealth from urban to rural India. Coupled with the increased exposure to media and improved literacy, it has increased the farmer's desire to provide his family with a better quality of life. Mobile phones, flat screen televisions, fairness creams, whitening toothpastes, Levis jeans are all being lapped up by rural Indians who want to dress and look like their favorite Bollywood hero. Every Indian telephony company, consumer goods company and automobile company is spending its advertising budget on wooing the village Indian to buy their products. Every aspiring model is pulling out her grandmother's sari to convince the advertising world of her ethnic roots. Every politician is keenly working on delivering on his promise to the village voter. And the rural Indian is becoming a much cleverer voter, leveraging his vote to get the politician to deliver on decades of unfulfilled promises. As urban India slows with the collapse of the stock markets, the disappearance of bonuses in the services sector, the uncertainty of jobs in manufacturing and the vanishing of multinationals from campuses for recruitment, the substitution of the urban engine by the rural engine has made India significantly insulated to the global recession. Indian banks flush with deposits from rural India have been able to provide financing to Indian companies and the real estate sector at cheap rates at a time when foreign capital has disappeared from debt and equity markets. Today's India truly stands a chance to rise to the global challenge because it has broad-based, diversified engines of growth. It is a nation which recognizes the importance of the fact that 70% of its population lives in villages and it acknowledges that the 10% that is the Indian bourgeoisie cannot restore the nation to its greatness. However, while the phenomena of income expansion and inclusion are gradually seeping into the young country 50% of Indians are below the age of 25, the big challenge we face is that of governance. It is critical that our national elections give us a government which is committed to reforms and progress. India needs a government which pushes investments in education, infrastructure, and police reforms and is committed to reducing poverty. A government push in infrastructure is critical to create jobs for the 270 million new entrants to our workforce over the next two decades. The Indian government needs to get serious about national security issues and not treat them as election rhetoric, or else the country will be increasingly vulnerable to horrific attacks by a very clever enemy. The new regime must act and must do so immediately. We are at the stage of economic growth where we need the government to keep pace with the nation or we may lose the once in a lifetime opportunity that we have been given to become the slumdog Millionaire. Car sales in India rose for the third straight month in April as softening loan rates and introduction of new vehicles by Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. and Hyundai Motor Co. attracted customers. Higher demand from rural areas and government employees also helped sales, which rose 4.2% in the past month to 102,899 cars from 98,752 a year earlier, data issued Monday by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers showed. Car sales in India had risen 1% in March and 22% in February, which was the first growth in sales since September.

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RBI: Some Sectors Showing Signs of Recovery
Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said that some sectors of the economy are showing signs of a recovery, but he added that it would be difficult to say when the economy will actually start reviving. India's monsoon is likely to hit Kerala on May 26, ahead of the normal onset of the monsoon on June 1, the India Meteorological Department said. City workers demolishing part of a Mumbai slum on Thursday bulldozed the home of a Slumdog Millionaire child star. Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail was asleep in his shanty when a police officer woke him up and told him to leave, he said. Shortly after that, about 30 homes were destroyed. A police officer took a bamboo stick to hit me and I was frightened, said 10-year-old Azhar. Eight Oscars and $326 million in box office receipts have so far done little to improve the lives of the film's two impoverished child stars, Azhar and Rubina Ali. They have been showered with gifts and brief bursts of fame, but their day-to-day lives are little changed.slumdog hspace0Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, 10, stretches as his mother, father, and a friend look on outside the family home in a slum in Bandra, suburban Mumbai, India, Jan. 25, 2009.

Thursday morning, city workers flanked by policemen arrived as part of a slum demolition drive common in India's crowded chaotic cities. They didn't give prior notice. We didn't even get a chance to take out our belongings, said Shameem Ismail, Azhar's mother, who has lived in the shanty town for more than 15 years. She has no legal right to the land. I don't know what I am going to do, she said, sitting on a bed she had dragged from the wreckage. Next to her was a plastic bag stuffed with belongings. Slumdog filmmakers say they've done their best to help. They set up a trust, called Jai Ho, after the hit song from the film, to ensure the children get proper homes, a good education and a nest egg when they finish high school. They also donated $747,500 to a charity to help slum kids in Mumbai. Producer Christian Colson has described the trust as substantial, but won't tell anyone how much not even the parents for fear of making the children vulnerable to exploitation. Canon to Invest 1 Billion Rupees in India. Pawar eyes PM's post; woos Third, Fourth Front  Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar is eyeing the prime minister's post with sources telling CNN-IBN that the Maratha strongman hopes to unite the Third and Fourth Fronts to fulfill his ambition if the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance fails to reach the 272. The first exit polls from India's monthlong national election gave a slight lead to the ruling party, reaffirming expectations that coalition bargaining will determine who leads the world's largest democracy. Voting has concluded and the official vote count is expected Saturday, giving parties 2 weeks to form a new government by a June 2 legal deadline.[SB124220243441514537] hspace0Indian voters stand in a queue to cast their vote outside a polling station during the last phase of voting in Kolkata Wednesday. The Big Count Key facts on India's vote tally and forming the next government May 16: Counting begins 8 am Indian Standard Time; results expected by the late afternoon. Votes will be counted from all five voting days in the national parliamentary elections that were held between April 16 and May 13; voting was held in 28 states and 7 union territories. 714 million voters were eligible to vote but turnout is expected to have been about 56% nationally. Votes will be counted by electronic counting machine under the supervision of a local election official in each constituency. Any demand for a recount of votes made by a candidate or his counting agent after the result sheet has been completed and signed will be rejected. May 16-17: Intense negotiations begin between major political parties to garner the 272 votes needed to form a coalition government; no single party is expected to garner a simple majority. May 17 onwards:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially submits his resignation to President Pratibha Patil; Mr. Singh to continue as caretaker prime minister until the new government is formed. President will invite the leader of the party with the most votes to form the government. The leader has to submit a list of 272 members and allies to prove it can form a government. June 2 onwards:  The 15th Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament, will be constituted by June 2. If no party can prove its majority by around June 15, there will be a hung parliament and a decision must be taken whether to hold another election. The new government prepares to present the budget by June 25. The notoriously unreliable exit polls the first available since voting began on April 16 because their release was banned while voting was under way gave no party an outright majority in parliament, setting the stage for weeks of political wrangling and horse-trading to reach a governing majority in the 545-member body. The incumbent Indian National Congress and its allies were projected to have won 185-205 seats, according to CNN-IBN news channel. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies were seen with 165-185 seats. Indian exit polls have been very inaccurate before in a country with a voting population of at least 714 million people. In 2004, pollsters predicted the then-incumbent BJP to return to power. The final vote tally favored Congress, which formed the United Progressive Alliance coalition. To gain a governing coalition, both of the major parties will try to form alliances with a swath of regional parties projected to win a dozen or more seats. On Wednesday, a regional party in the big southern state of Andhra Pradesh said it is throwing its lot in with the BJP, while a number of others said they are open to joining whichever proves to be the strongest party. The biggest prize in the last phase of voting was the southern state of Tamil Nadu and its 39 seats. A showdown between two regional parties there could leave the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam as an influential swing player in the process of building a coalition, analysts say. The head of the party left the future of her party open. There are feelers from many places, but I'm not responding to any overtures now, J. Jayalalitha said. The polls also suggest a disappointing result for some of the smaller parties. The Third Front, an independent bloc of leftist and regional parties, is likely to poll far below the needed numbers to form a government without support from Congress or the BJP, the polls showed. Kumari Mayawati, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, whom many analysts expected to become a kingmaker in a coalition, was projected to get no more than 35 seats, short of the 50 some analysts had predicted. A question for Congress is whether it will need to rely on the Left Front, a group of leftist and Communist parties, to form a government. The Left was part of the ruling alliance for most of the last government and used its effective veto to stymie some economic and business-friendly changes others in Congress had favored. It quit the government last summer to protest the U.S.-India civilian nuclear technology deal. The Left Front was projected to win as many as 40 seats.

Indian Sikh voters holds up their voter ID cards while standing in line to cast their vote at a polling station in the village Gumtala on the outskirts of Amritsar.India exit polls

India's elections may have an unintended beneficiary: the economy. Political parties and electoral authorities may spend between $2.39 billion to $4.33 billion on the race, most of it on transportation and materials and services such as banners, flags and advertising, according to Mumbai-based Kotak Securities. By contrast, the government's two fiscal packages since December total $4.05 billion. The election-related stimulus could add 0.3% to 0.7% to gross domestic product in the current financial year, Kotak says. The central bank expects growth to have slowed to 6.5% to 6.7% in the fiscal year that ended March 31, from 9% in the previous year, and to ease to about 6% this year. US envoy visits Advani, raises eyebrows The overheated grapevine at the close of election season put conspiracy theorists in clover on Wednesday when charge d'affaires of the US embassy, Peter Burleigh, drove over to visit BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani. He had met senior leader Venkaiah Naidu earlier this week coming on the last day of the five-phase elections. Once the dust from India's month-long election has settled, the new government will have to grapple with the twin challenges of a gaping budget deficit and an economy crimped by the global slump. The risk for investors is that an unstable coalition forms the next government and ramps up borrow-and-spend policies, prompting rating agencies to downgrade India's debt back to junk.  Most political parties have campaigned on a raft of promises that range from higher wages and rural employment programs to free health insurance and more subsidized food for the rural poor - all hot-button issues. Don't Let the Facts Get in the Way Of a Good Election Scene One – The grungy, dimly-lit upstairs conference room at the Press Club of India on Monday afternoon. About 20 journalists, maybe less, sit under the creaking fans; a lone, dusty water cooler surrounded by glasses sits on a table at the back. Two officials from National Election Watch and the Association for Democratic Reforms take their seats behind a desk and unveil the latest statistics on the quality of people India gets to choose its politicians from: Total number of parliamentary candidates facing criminal charges: 1,114, or 15% of all candidates. In 2004, the percentage was 24%. The reduction is presented as a welcome development. It's still roughly one in six. Congress has fielded the most: 114. Bharatiya Janata Party: 113. Bahujan Samaj Party: 105. Samajwadi Party: 55. Among the criminal counts: 1,379 charges of a heinous nature including murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping and extortion. 188 constituencies score a hat-trick: Three or more candidates face criminal charges. Uttar Pradesh has 40 of the 188. Scene Two The ballroom of the Hotel Oberoi on Tuesday evening. The invitation reads: Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, cordially invites you to the release of the documentary film "Indian Elections: A Mammoth Democratic Exercise. The main act: Shivshankar Menon, foreign secretary, and Navin Chawla, chief election commissioner. The audience: About 250 diplomats, foreign journalists, government officials. The purpose: To marvel at India's brilliance in conducting elections and to celebrate, so the documentary tells us, India's undying commitment to the electoral process. The movie showcases: A grizzled grandfather in an orange turban saying, as he produces his voter ID card, My freedom is in my pocket. How Indian elections since independence mean the country has broken free of humbling social traditions like caste and other social hierarchies.A tea seller in Old Delhi who has stood for election 11 times and lost every time. Barkha Dutt

The fact that the election commission has developed zero tolerance level for any form of malpractice and that Indians believe voting is like a spiritual exercise. It was a startling contrast within the space of almost 24 hours. don't mean to demean the foreign ministry's efforts. Conducting elections in a country the size of India is an overwhelming task that is admirably and ably handled by, as the documentary noted, almost 7 million polling personnel. To the moviemakers' credit, they did spend some time OK, a little time on problems: Money power, and the lack of urban elite voters. And this was clearly a public relations exercise for people unlikely to spend any time upstairs in the press club. Still, at times it veered dangerously toward a disconnect that happens all too often in Indian officialdom, both business and political: A belief that if you ignore something awkward and tout the successes, the awkwardness won't exist. It was a common response among business people and the self-appointed protectors of India's image to the novel White Tiger and the movie Slumdog Millionaire.The takeaway was not: These raise interesting and disturbing issues we need to address. Or even: An entertaining look at India's seamy underside. Instead, it was: Why make this movie? Why write about those things? Why portray India that way? Except that the India of 1,114 political candidates facing criminal charges does exist. Yet it is rarely, if ever, talked about, which is a sure sign that it will never be fixed. Ditto during this election campaign for: The faltering economy, corruption in public life, national security, poverty, hunger, access to good healthcare, Pakistan. And on, and on. India, sadly, rarely gets the chance to debate such issues with any honest assessment of reality, let alone actually make strides in dealing with them. Official India is much more comfortable crowing about its energetic, pulsating vibrant democracy. That leaves it vulnerable to a criticism more often leveled at my profession: Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Indian politicians hoping to erode the control of the ruling Congress party have turned to the war in Sri Lanka to help deliver one of the country's biggest election prizes. The party that dominates voting in the southern state of Tamil Nadu which has 39 seats up for grabs Wednesday could prove pivotal in forming India's new government as parties scramble for coalition partners. Election results will be announced soon. Only a short stretch of sea separates Tamil Nadu and the northern part of Sri Lanka, where Tamil Tiger rebels are staging a bloody last stand. Over the past few days, as many as 1,000 civilians, including women and children, have been killed.

Patients at a makeshift hospital in Sri Lanka's conflict zone in a photograph, according to the pro-rebel group that supplied it, taken after a mortar shell hit the facility Tuesday, killing dozens of people seeking treatment.Patients at a makeshift hospital in Sri Lankas conflict zone in a photograph, according to the pro-rebel group that supplied it, taken after a mortar shell hit the facility Tuesday, killing dozens of people seeking treatment.

On Tuesday, a mortar shell exploded in a crowd of wounded civilians waiting for treatment at the one medical facility left in the war zone, killing 49 people. The two sides have traded blame for civilian attacks, and the rebels blamed the government for Tuesday's incident; Sri Lankan officials denied responsibility, saying they had ceased using artillery and mortars weeks ago, the AP reported. Sri Lanka's turmoil has come to occupy a bloody place in Indian politics. In the late 1980s, India stationed peacekeeping troops in Sri Lanka; it wound up withdrawing them in 1990 after losing many Indian lives and failing to quash the insurgency. A year later, a suicide bomber linked to the Tigers assassinated Indian leader Rajiv Gandhi during a campaign stop in Tamil Nadu. Indian politicians today differ sharply in how they talk about the war, offering insight into Sri Lanka's charged history in Indian politics and its potential as a campaign tool. Parliamentary candidate V. Gopalswamy stokes his fiery stump speeches with ire against the Sri Lankan government, as well as India, which he says without offering evidence supports the army's war effort. This is genocide, with full assistance of the Indian government, says Mr. Gopalswamy, who leads a regional party. Manick Tagoore, a candidate from the ruling Congress party, says the war has driven Mr. Gopalswamy to distraction. People want to know about their roads, their children's education, their children's health, says Mr. Tagoore. The issue is development, in this country. Across India, many voters may see the concerns of national security, foreign policy and the slowing economy as less relevant than the state of local schools, hospital and infrastructure. But in Tamil Nadu, a foreign war is close to home.

[Local Contest]

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have fought for a separate state for a mostly Hindu ethnic group; Sri Lanka's government is controlled by the Sinhalese, who are largely Buddhist. The civil war has raged off and on since 1983. In India's current election, Congress party leaders particularly the Gandhi family have sought to distinguish between the Tamil Tigers and the Tamil people. The Tigers are a terrorist organization. The Tamils of Sri Lanka are innocent civilians, said Rahul Gandhi, who was 20 years old when his father was killed. I'm not fond of the Tigers, and you can understand why. Rahul and his mother, Sonia, who leads the Congress party, have returned regularly to Tamil Nadu in the 2009 campaign. They hope for a repeat of the 2004 elections, when the party's coalition partners swept the state's seats. Their main opponent, the Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party, has taken a more provocative stand: That Tamil rights can be protected only through a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

India's inflation rate eased after rising for three consecutive weeks and economists tip more declines due to comparison with last year's high readings. The inflation rate as measured by the wholesale price index was 0.48% in the week ended May 2, compared with 0.70% in the previous week, data issued Thursday by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry showed. It was above the median 0.30% estimate. Wholesale prices are rising at their slowest pace on record. India's exports in April shrank 33% from a year earlier, contracting for the seventh month in a row as demand from key western countries weakened following a deepening global recession. Indian companies seeking overseas assets will increasingly turn to local currency financing to fulfill their global ambitions amid the global credit crunch, a senior banker with Citigroup Inc. said. Financing for M&A is readily available in local rupee denominated terms. It is generally more cost effective and easier to roll over given current liquidity, Sameer Nath, Citigroup's head of India mergers & acquisitions, said. Even though converting the rupee for acquisitions won't be easy, mechanics exist that make it possible to structure a domestic-currency denominated deal, such as using hedging tools to manage foreign exchange risk. DLF Ltd. said some of its founders sold a 9.9% stake for about 38.6 billion rupees ($783 million), raising cash for India's biggest realty company by sales. The founders sold 168 million shares at just above 230 rupees ($4.67) apiece, a 2.6% discount to the closing price of DLF shares Tuesday, the company said. DLF, based in New Delhi, didn't identify who sold the shares. Voting is drawing to a close Wednesday in India's largest election ever, and a slowing economy, terrorism and the rural poor have been front and center in the campaign. But of growing concern are the country's teeming new megacities, which are swelling rapidly even as jobs dry up and funding for infrastructure disappears.

[SB124050911302448861|sectionWORLD:slideshow] hspace0One of India's Crumbling Utopias

Known for its baroque monuments and lush gardens, Lucknow could face the same fate as Mumbai and Kolkata, which became synonymous with poverty and decay in the 1970s and 1980s. This capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was once an orderly place known for its baroque monuments and lush gardens. Today, Lucknow has more than 780 slums, overflowing sewage pipes and streets choked by gridlock. Its population of 2.7 million, nearly triple the number in the 1980s, is adding as many as 150,000 new residents a year. Shami Shafi, a 35-year-old laborer in Lucknow, has seen his daily income drop by half in recent months to 50 rupees, or about $1, for carrying bags of potatoes and other goods in a local market. But I'm not going back to my village, he says. If work gets harder to find, I'll just go to another city. Across India, poor migrants keep streaming into cities like Lucknow, many of which are woefully mismanaged and ill-equipped to handle the influx. India has at least 41 cities with more than one million people, up from 23 two decades ago. A half dozen others will soon join the megacity list. Urban experts say the risk is now rising that some of these cities could face the same fate as Mumbai and Calcutta, which became synonymous with poverty and decay in the 1970s and 1980s. Indian politics has long been dominated by rural constituencies 70% of the population still lives in the countryside. But urban voters are seen by candidates as increasingly crucial. Both of the main political parties have tried to capitalize on rising urban discontent by promising to deliver more spending on power, roads and other infrastructure.video hspace5 Although city planners have tried to learn from Calcutta and Mumbai's untamed sprawl, they haven't been able to manage the growth in Lucknow, which suffers from over-crowding and weak infrastructure. Patrick Barta reports from India. There is no doubt that India's future is in the cities, says M. Ramachandran, secretary at India's Ministry of Urban Development.What's happening in India is part of a world-wide challenge. Megacities are sprouting around the globe. But in billion-person India, the trend is on steroids.The country already has 25 of the world's 100-fastest growing urban areas, according to City Mayors, an international urban-affairs think tank. Pune, near Mumbai, has more than four million people. Kanpur, in north central India, has more than three million, as does Surat, in western India. India is expected to add 10 million people a year between 2000 and 2030 to its 5,161 cities. If India fails to get a handle on its new urban areas, it could be saddled with more bottlenecks and inefficiencies that could doom the country to years of subpar growth, says Dharmakirti Joshi, an economist at Mumbai ratings agency Crisil. India's gross domestic product has been growing faster than that of most other developing countries, averaging 8.8% a year in the past five years, according to the International Monetary Fund. But economists say inadequate roads, electricity and other infrastructure shave one to two percentage points off growth each year.India's New Megacities Face Pressure Officials have taken some steps to improve things. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission was launched in 2005 by the national government to help more than 60 major cities by spending $10 billion to upgrade sewers, water supply, roads and other necessities. But that falls far short of the $52 billion the government estimates it will take to fix India's urban infrastructure. Lucknow offers a case study of the challenges India's newer metropolises face. The city is famous as a center of high culture dating to the 1700s and 1800s, when it was ruled by a group of extravagant Persian noblemen known as nawabs. They built giant pleasure gardens and baroque monuments, some of which remain, and they left a legacy of courtly manners, poetry and fine cuisine. The city has changed dramatically in recent years. As the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India's most-populous state, Lucknow has attracted hundreds of thousands of migrants from rural areas, swelling the city's population. Yet the city hasn't completed any major new sewage infrastructure since before the country won independence in 1947. As much as 70% of residents don't have sewage service, leaving much of the waste to flow directly into the main river, the Gomti, which has become a stinking cesspool. Traffic has overwhelmed downtown streets, and trash collection is inadequate. Much of Lucknow's rubbish is left to rot in piles or strewn about in residential neighborhoods. I just see the city crumbling every year, says Mr. Joshi, the Mumbai economist. "It used to be a beautiful city. The number of slums in Lucknow has quintupled since the early 1970s, according to the Vigyan Foundation, a social-advocacy group in Lucknow. As many as one million people are living without proper sanitation, water supplies or other services, according to social activists. Many of the slums are located along railway beds or in flood plains, exposing residents to floods and other dangers. In one of the slums, a community called Azad Nagar, nearly 1,000 residents live in handmade thatch huts with packed mud floors and roofs held in place by trash and rag piles. Monsoon floods washed away much of the slum last year, but it was quickly rebuilt. Residents say cholera killed one child and snakes got another. At least it's better than in the village, says Shanti Kashyap, a 32-year-old mother of four who moved there from a rural town about 70 miles away. In the village, you work all day long in the field and don't even get two meals. Now her husband works as a wall painter, earning about 100 rupees, or $2, a day. Of course, slums have always existed in Indian cities, including in Lucknow. But many advocates hoped India's modernization would reverse slums' growth. Instead, the opposite appears to be happening. Part of the problem: Lucknow, like many Indian cities, is managed by a bewildering array of government bodies that don't always coordinate activities. In theory, Lucknow is led by an elected mayor and 110-member Municipal Corporation, similar to a U.S. city council. Together, they share oversight of basic services such as water, housing and roads. But in practice, the elected officials' authority is sharply limited by the half-dozen or more other government bodies that wield power in town.

Chief among them is the Lucknow Development Authority, a group of unelected bureaucrats who have the authority to develop new housing projects and roads within them. But after a few years, when the developments are completed, the LDA hands over management of the projects to the Municipal Corporation, which doesn't always have enough money to maintain basic services such as water, sewage and street lights. The result is dysfunctional government, says U.B. Singh, an urban-studies professor at the University of Lucknow. The mayor has the power to authorize the building of new roads, but not new bridges a big problem in a city that flanks a river and is crisscrossed by canals. Despite rapidly falling water tables, there is no single authority empowered to determine when and where residents can drill wells. Private citizens regularly take matters into their own hands and drill for water themselves, further depleting the resources. There is no concept of city planning, and what does exist only exists on paper, Mr. Singh says. Planning has totally failed here. The mayor and a senior official at the Lucknow Development Authority say they're doing the best they can to follow sound planning guidelines and address residents' concerns. But they say the city is growing so fast that it's hard to keep up. Mukesh Kumar Meshram, vice chairman of the LDA, says the authority is adding thousands of housing units each year. But, he says, obviously the gap is always there. That's why the slums are being created  whenever people find open space, they go. Lucknow does have a master plan, drafted by a team of 30 government staffers and finished in 2005. But its primary architect, a state planner named Satyavir Singh Dalal, says that master plans are routinely ignored by developers and politicians who start new projects wherever they please. We have to make a lot of compromises, Mr. Dalal says. In some cases, he says, leaders follow planners' recommendations but take years or decades to get the work done. An earlier master plan in 1992 called for a new ring road to ease the city's traffic woes; it is only now nearing completion 17 years later. Another big problem is lack of money. Mayor Dinesh Sharma, a university professor, says his annual budget is $139 million. He says his administration is focusing on projects it can control, such as an $800,000 program that involves rounding up stray dogs, monkeys and other animals and depositing them at a ranch called Krishna's Garden. The national Urban Renewal Mission project has helped by allocating roughly $150 million to Lucknow for sewage, wastewater treatment and other improvements. City and state officials say the sewage projects, which could be finished later this year, should cover most if not all of Lucknow's wastewater treatment needs. Mr. Dalal, the state planner, says that's unlikely. By his reckoning, about 30% of the city still won't have service after the improvements. Either way, the money is far short of the more than $960 million Lucknow needs to spend on roads, water and other projects, according to Feedback Ventures, that helped prepare a development plan for the city in 2006. Some advocates for the poor argue that money is available; it's just not being spent well. Urvashi Sharma, a local activist, says the Uttar Pradesh state government has allocated huge sums on projects of limited social value, including a $90 million monument being built to honor political leaders near the Gomti River. It involves a massive domed monolith and public meeting area stretching over several city blocks, with a statue of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kumari Mayawati across the street and a gallery of giant stone elephants, her political party's symbol. Navneet Sehgal, the state's secretary of urban development, says the project is an economic stimulus and has created jobs. Meanwhile, people continue coming. They include Ramesh Kumar, a man in his 40s who one recent morning was resting in the shade of 100-year-old Hindu temple where day laborers gather each day to wait for jobs. Mr. Kumar had come to Lucknow from a small village eight days before, leaving his wife and four children behind. He hadn't found work yet. He tried lowering his daily price from 100 rupees to 80 and then 60, without luck. Like many of the workers around him, he was sleeping on the ground by the temple. Living in the city may not be working out well so far. But then again, says Mr. Kumar, we don't have anywhere else to go.  India's Department of Telecommunications, or DoT, has ordered a special audit into the books of four telecom operators, including the country's largest mobile phone service provider Bharti Airtel Ltd., a senior official said Wednesday. The other companies whose books will be examined to determine if they are paying less than their share of revenue to the government are Tata Teleservices Ltd., Vodafone-Essar Ltd.  India's Suzlon Energy Ltd. Wednesday said that some of its founders have sold 30 million shares equal to a 2% stake of the wind-turbine maker. The founders' total holding in the company has now fallen to 63.82. Tata Consultancy Services, India's largest software exporter by revenue, said it has received a five-year contract to provide information-technology support to Volkswagen Group UK. Tatas' nano housing plan takes off in style Tata Group has sold around 3,500 application forms for its low-cost housing project, Shubh Griha near Mumbai, in the first two days of booking, three-and-a-half times the number of apartments the company is planning to build under the project, a company executive said.



Edited by jagdu - 14 May 2009 at 11:32am
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Posted: 16 May 2009 at 1:58pm | IP Logged
[India elections] 

Supporters of India's ruling Congress party shout slogans as they celebrate after learning of initial poll results outside their party office in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad.

The India National Congress party and its allies sailed to victory Saturday, securing a strong mandate for the designated prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and boosting the fortunes of Rahul Gandhi, the heir to a political dynasty who spearheaded the winning campaign. The latest results from India's Election Commission show the Congress party winning or leading in 206 seats. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, by the same measure, has 116 seats.

[SB124245012832026487] hspace0A policeman stands guard as an official carries electronic voting machines from a strong-room at a counting center in Mumbai.

With its allies in the United Progressive Alliance, Congress is expected to win as many as 260 seats, just short of a majority but close enough that it can easily cobble together more allies to form the next government. The size of the UPA's expected victory came as a surprise. Exit polls from the voting, which has taken place since April 16, pointed to a close race between Congress and the BJP, which leads the National Democratic Alliance. The prospect of a return of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance is likely to buoy investors. Headed by a seasoned Prime Minister who is also a respected economist, the government has steered India through an economic boom  growth has averaged 9% over the past four years and foreign direct investment has climbed 60% since coming to power. India's economy has held up better than most, with growth projected at around 6% this year. Still, the economy is going through a rough patch and investors feared a fractured and weak government might emerge from a close contest. Any new government will need to tackle the slowdown as well as the monumental challenge of lifting about one-third of the country of poverty  tasks that are likely to entail more government spending, especially on infrastructure. Some executives, however, played down expectations of government funds fueling a rapid economic recovery. The government doesn't have any money, said Pramod Bhasin, chief executive of Genpact, a major Indian outsourcer  We've got to temper the euphoria. Having a stable government in India is a boon for the rest of the world, since the world's second largest nation by population is being looked at as a possible driver of global economic growth once the global recession starts to fade. The election also came at a crucial time in South Asia. 

The Big Count

Key facts on India's vote tally and forming the next government

May 16: Counti ng begins 8 am Indian Standard Time; results expected by the late afternoon. Votes will be counted from all five voting days in the national parliamentary elections that were held between April 16 and May 13; voting was held in 28 states and 7 union territories.714 million voters were eligible to vote but turnout is expected to have been about 56% nationally.Votes will be counted by electronic counting machine under the supervision of a local election official in each constituency.Any demand for a recount of votes made by a candidate or his counting agent after the result sheet has been completed and signed will be rejected. May 16-17: Intense negotiations begin between major political parties to garner the 272 votes needed to form a coalition government; no single party is expected to garner a simple majority. May 17 onwards:  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh officially submits his resignation to President Pratibha Patil; Mr. Singh to continue as caretaker prime minister until the new government is formed. President will invite the leader of the party with the most votes to form the government. The leader has to submit a list of 272 members and allies to prove it can form a government. June 2 onwards:  The 15th Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament, will be constituted by June 2.If  no party can prove its majority by around June 15, there will be a hung parliament and a decision must be taken whether to hold another election. The new government prepares to present the budget by June 25.

As in India's past campaigns, religion, caste and kinship hovered close to the surface. But many also noted in this election a shift away from these old political formulations and the politicians who have relied on them. Contests in many poor Indian states appeared to pivot on issues of local development, rewarding those who could deliver good governance and penalizing those who failed. Congress party leaders took the resounding victory as a vote of confidence for the government's last five years in power.  The people of India know what is good for them and they always make the right choice,  said Sonia Gandhi, Congress party president.

Ms. Gandhi also attempted to douse speculation that her 38-year old son, Rahul, a chief architect of the campaign, might ride the victory to the government's top job. Manmohan Singh is our prime minister, she said. The next government must be formed by June 2. Of India's 714 million eligible voters, almost 60% cast ballots. Much of the credit for the commanding Congress victory is going to Mr. Gandhi. The descendent of three Indian prime ministers campaigned in far corners of the country, worked to rejuvenate the party with young blood and used his own high profile to attract media attention to the Congress party. On Saturday, several of the under-40 candidates for whom Mr. Gandhi campaigned won. Now Mr. Gandhi must decide whether to parlay that political victory into a powerful position in government. He has said that he prefers to continue working with the party's youth wing for another two years, but could ascend to the prime minister's request to join the government. It is my hope that he should be in the cabinet, the 76-year old Prime Minister Singh told reporters. I have to persuade him.

Power Players

A look at how key Indian politicians fared in national elections.

As results came in Saturday, crowds of dancing supporters formed outside the Congress party headquarters in New Delhi. They waved large Congress party flags and chanted Jai Ho,or Let there be victory in Hindi, and held up posters depicting Mrs. Gandhi, Rahul and her daughter, Congress advisor Priyanka Gandhi. Firecrackers exploded loudly, filling the air with smoke.As the C ongress party and its allies now look to forming the next government, which could happen as early as next week, others are licking their wounds. The results marked a crushing defeat for the Congress party's main opposition BJP. The top casualty appeared to be the BJP leader, 81-year old LK Advani, who party officials said would step down from the top post. The party had attempted to reach out to new parts of India by trumpeting a blend of business friendly policies and technology-driven growth in rural and urban areas. Yet critics say the party's Hindu nationalist identity proved too polarizing. We can't be a theocracy, says Dalbir Singh, a top official in the Congress party. This is where the BJP has gone wrong. BJP officials conceded defeat, and acknowledged a failure to win voter trust in key states. Some refused to view the result as a broader rebuke to the party platform, however. The election results give no reason for BJP to reconsider its ideological positions,said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley. Another big loser: Kumari Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state. The leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, which garners its appeal chiefly from the Dalit community, put herself forward as a prime ministerial candidate during the elections, but fared poorly in other parts of India and below expectations in her own state, where she aroused anger for building massive statues of herself. Her political rival in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party, fared slightly better, winning one 22 seats to the BSP's 21, according to preliminary results. The SP had joined with the Congress party last year when its government was in danger of collapsing over opposition to a civilian nuclear deal India struck with the U.S. But it was unclear Saturday whether it would rejoin the alliance or even if Congress would need them. SP leaders complained bitterly the Congress party showed insufficient gratitude for their earlier support, and fielded candidates in Uttar Pradesh that stole votes from their own.

India's Congress party-led alliance is poised to return to power in the general elections.

We have a love-hate relationship, said Amar Singh of the Congress party in an interview Friday before the election results. Last time, we had our heart in the alliance. This time we will have to have our head in the alliance, too. The Congress victory also manages to avoid an embrace with India's Communist parties. Support from Leftist parties helped Congress form the government after the 2004 election, but their opposition to market liberalization and closer ties with the U.S. undermined policies promoted by the prime minister. The Left parties withdrew support from the government last year, prompting a scramble for new partners. Many had feared a repeat this election. A series of hung Parliaments and political horse-trading and wrangling would be destabilizing for the country at a time when its economic growth is slowing and its relations with its neighbors, especially Pakistan, remain tense following last November's terrorist attacks in Mumbai. But the Congress and its allies dominated in a few key states, including the southern state of Kerala, where the Communists traditionally have been strong. One of winners for the Congress in the state was Shashi Tharoor, a former Under Secretary General of the United Nations. Though he was a first time voter as well as a first-time candidate this election, he won his contest for a parliamentary seat in by a much wider margin than he had expected. He expected new coalition partners and a new age for India. We will have a stable and responsible government in turbulent times, Mr. Tharoor said . You will have serious grown up government for the next five years.

India's electorate gave Kumari Mayawati, one of India's most influential politicians, two big thumbs down Saturday, scotching for now her ambitions to become India's first Dalit prime minister. Mayawati, the chief minister of the Indian state Uttar Pradesh and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president, speaks during a campaign rally in Ghaziabad, India, on Monday, May 4, 2009.
Kumari Mayawati

A look at how key Indian politicians fared in national elections.

By mid-afternoon Saturday as votes nationally were being counted, her Bahujan Samaj Party was projected as winning 23 seats according to news channel NDTV. That is a gain on 19 in the last parliament but far behind the 50 predicted by some analysts.

Even worse for Ms. Mayawati, her archrival in the state, the Samajwadi Party, was expected to score almost the same number of parliamentary seats and will likely join the next government coalition. The SP has been a key ally to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance coalition government for almost a year. Congress and the UPA delivered a resounding victory Saturday and are expected to return to power when the next government is formed. That will rid Ms. Mayawati of the chance to be a potential coalition partner, a perch from which she intended to make a big play for the prime ministership. It's a big setback for her, said Ajoy Bose, a biographer of Ms. Mayawati.Ms. Mayawati, who is universally known as "Mayawati," is the chief minister of India's biggest state, Uttar Pradesh. She has risen to prominence as a champion of Dalits, the Indians at the bottom of the caste hierarchy also derisively known as untouchables. She had gained prominence over the past decade as a voice for the poor and disenfranchised, though she herself has become wealthy and powerful. She fought the election on a populist platform aimed at rural and poor voters hit by India's economic slowdown, and had made no secret of her desire to get her hands on the top job. Satish Mitra, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank, said the Bahujan Samaj Party's poor showing in the election reflected both Congress's aggressive campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party heartland, and disappointment over Ms. Mayawati's performance as chief minister for the past two years. The charismatic 53-year-old's rule in Uttar Pradesh has seen little in the way of development, with crumbling roads and vast swaths of countryside still without regular electricity, and local politics handicapped by corruption. And Ms. Mayawati's open ambition to become prime minister almost immediately after she became chief minister put off voters keen to see her focus on improving the state first, Mr. Mitra said. The BSP has disappointed voters by focusing attention  on the prime minister's chair rather than the mandate given to her to govern UP, Mr. Mitra said.Her national ambitions meant that during her campaign she lost focus on Uttar Pradesh a costly move, said Mr. Bose, the biographer. In her eagerness of becoming prime minister and spreading her wings across the country, she may have ignored her own bastion, Uttar Pradesh, said Mr. Bose.Nonetheless, observers expect Ms. Mayawati to remain a force in national politics; if she learns some lessons from this election. I think the trajectory of the BSP and Mayawati continues upwards, but I think this will be an evolutionary curve and not a revolutionary, dramatic leap forward, Mr. Bose said.

India's president, accustomed to a low profile, has dodged a bullet.

Pratibha Devisingh Patil, India's first female president, faced a knotty decision in inviting one of the two major political parties to form the next government if predictions have proven true that there would be a slim difference between the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. That threatened to thrust her into the national spotlight, something she has steered clear of since coming to office about two years ago. But with Saturday's poll results pointing to a resounding victory for Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance, 74-year old politician is more likely to be able to perform a ceremonial, rather than a decisive, role in the outcome India's President Pratibha Patil shows her ink-marked finger after casting her vote at a polling station in New Delhi May 7, 2009.

patil hspace0
patil hspace0

It's a low-key spot she has been comfortable occupying since she came to power. She's better known for planting trees, cutting ribbons and  in one unusually memorable photograph wielding an assault rifle. She lacks the political muscle of India's other female leaders, such as Sonia Gandhi, head of the powerful Congress party. And she isn't a national icon, unlike her predecessor, Abdul Kalam, who was nicknamed the missile man for his leading role test-firing India's atomic weapons. In closer races, the president's choice in which party to invite to form a government can be crucial, especially since it's unclear whether the president has to pick the largest single party or the largest coalition. Picking the biggest single vote-getter in parliament hasn't been a sure recipe for a stable government. In 1996, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the most seats but fell short of a majority. The president then, Shankar Dayal Sharma, invited the BJP to form the government, but it collapsed two weeks later after it failed to prove the majority in the parliament. Two subsequent governments followed before the country headed into elections in 1998, three years before schedule. Ms. Patil studied law in Bombay now known as Mumbai and was a champion ping pong player. But soon after college, at the age of 27, she was elected to the Maharashtra legislature and settled into in a life in state politics, moving through a variety of ministries. When Ms. Gandhi of the ruling Congress party tapped her in 2007 to replace the popular President Kalam, Ms. Patil's obscurity became an asset. Few of the Congress party's partners, including a collection of Communist parties, had reason to resist the pick. Ms. Patil has maintained the not-so-visible profile as president. The prime minister runs the government and Ms. Gandhi heads the coalition of political parties that formed the last government in 2004, so the president is largely confined to serving as ceremonial figurehead. As in her days in Maharashtra, Ms. Patil has remained dedicated to causes related to women and children, and many of her speeches have touched on projects to improve their welfare. Shrikant Bhat, a lawyer and classmate of Ms. Patil at Government Law College, recalls she was a keen student of constitutional law and an advocate of women's rights long before it was common. In those days, when to talk about women's rights was some kind of rebellion, she spoke about them without hesitation and with unflinching loyalty to the cause of women and child ren, Mr. Bhat said. At the same time, she never was and is not one of those strident, obsessive feminists. She was always open-minded. She would dress in a five yards sari, generally white or of a sober color.As president, Ms. Patil hasn't always managed to stay out of the limelight. During a tour last year of army posts, she was photographed near the strife-to rn border of Pakistan, the bespeckled lady brandishing an AK-47 and smiling. Political allies cringed.Afterwards, Omar Abdullah, the young politician who earlier this year became chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, wrote in his blog that he wished she'd been photographed in a more grandmotherly venue, like with a group of kids. I know she's the Commander-in -Chief of the Armed Forces, he wrote. But the photograph reminded me of a rather forgettable Sylvester Stallone movie - Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
 

The verdict is in. A new United Progressive Alliance government is expected to take charge of India next month. With it comes the promise of a change for the better. The new government has the opportunity and the challenge to outline a bold vision for India, a vision that fires up the imagination of its people and the vitality of its entrepreneurs. The new government has to credibly signal its commitment to addressing the major challenges facing India and enlist the support of the private sector in creating innovations for achieving goals that are big, visionary and bold. In the past, whenever allowed the freedom to do so, the Indian corporate sector has risen to the occasion and helped India's development. It is time once again for the Indian government to present corporate India with a set of truly transformational challenges. Here is a small set of inter-related broad areas where change is urgently needed and which, with proper government support, Indian entrepreneurs and corporations will eagerly participate in. Education: India needs a radically different education system as the current one is dysfunctional and largely irrelevant in the modern context. In a world of rapid and accelerating change, the foundational skill is to learn how to learn. The education system has to produce life-long learners, which the current setup does not permit. Fortunately, a radical re-engineering is possible through the use of powerful tools presented by the revolution in information and communications technologies. To achieve this, institutional reform of the type that encourages private sector participation in education is necessary. Energy: Any economic activity, like all processes in the universe, depends on energy. Today's developed nations achieved their level of prosperity on cheap fossil fuels, an opportunity not available to India's 1.2 billion people. Fortunately, India is large enough to be able to leapfrog the fossil fuel stage by investing in the development and use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The required investment cannot be raised without leadership which convincingly articulates the vision. Urbanization: India's economic future depends on India's success at urbanizing its immense rural population. No economy has achieved even middle-income status without being mostly urban. What India needs is to make its agriculture more productive. The labor released from agriculture has to be provided training and opportunities in manufacturing and services sectors. It is important to distinguish between the development of rural areas and that of rural populations. The former is neither necessary nor sufficient for development; the latter is indispensable and can be achieved most effectively by urbanizing them. This challenge is the creation of new, livable cities that would lead the urbanization of the population needed for India's transition to an industrialized economy. Transportation: India is a large country with a large population. For the economy to prosper, people and goods have to be efficiently moved over large distances. What India needs is a land-based system and more specifically a rail-based transportation system, both for goods and people. The technology exists for super-efficient, super-fast rail systems. India has to seriously invest in that and replace the century-old current railway system. Furthermore, within cities, India needs to have an efficient public transit system and not take the unsustainable, car-centered approach. Digital Infrastructure: Although India has one of the world's cheapest and extensive mobile networks for voice communications, its data networks are quite inadequate. India needs to make serious and large investments to upgrade its digital wireline and wireless networks to create a high-speed, ubiquitous envelope of data connectivity across the nation. This is what will spur the creation of the next-generation of entrepreneurial outfits creating world-leading applications and services for the domestic market. Governance: India has to make judicious use of its financial capital. The problem is that the current leaky system does not allow the most effective and efficient use of those resources. What is needed is to leverage technology in better governance though citizen participation. Technology can enable citizen oversight of public spending and enforce accountability. Innovations such as smart national ID cards and eVoting can increase participation in democratic processes.

Kamal Nath, India's influential Commerce and Industry minister in the last government, downplayed the prospects for rapid economic reform despite the Congress party's resounding victory in national elections.Mr. Nath, who himself was reelected from his constituency in Madhya Pradesh, said his message to foreign investors is that India is open for business with an economy that is on a growth trajectory. But he said further reforms to lift restrictions on foreign investment in key industries would have to be considered only in the context of the global slump, which had made such policies unpopular worldwide.

[Kamal Nath] Kamal Nath. We're going to be looking at everything in the light of the current economic recession worldwide, Mr. Nath said. He said India had to look at policies that generate employment and that do not displace people. He said it was especially important for India to create more manufacturing jobs. The election victory for the Congress Party and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance means the incumbent government is virtually assured of forming the next government by June 2 and to have a solid enough majority in Parliament to be confident of lasting the full five year term. With Manmohan Singh, architect of India's liberalization in the early 1990s, as prime minister, it had stoked hopes that the government would pursue further reforms. It had been prevented from doing so in much of the past five years by leftist parties on which the government depended for support.Mr. Nath comments, however, suggest that further reforms that would lift restrictions on areas such as retail, media, and insurance may not happen anytime soon. He said the government was not bringing any unfinished reform agenda into its new term. He added that India has been relatively insulated from the global financial crisis so far and intended to keep it that way. Mr. Nath said no decision had yet been made as to whether he will occupy the same Cabinet post in the new administration, adding that was up to Mr. Singh and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi. India has a limited window of opportunity for getting its policies right so it can participate successfully in a globally very competitive world. It missed many previous opportunities but cannot afford to miss this one. The time has come for government and corporate India to come together to Think Big and drive the disruptive innovations that India so urgently needs to move rapidly up the development ladder.
 
Hopes for a new batch of independent, reform-minded politicians who would break the status quo in New Delhi have largely been dashed, in part because India's middle class has yet to find its political voice. With widespread disgust with political establishment's failure to protect Mumbai from November's terrorist attacks as well as a burgeoning youth vote, the national elections were touted by some analysts as the year when reform candidates might start to clean up a system often tainted by bribery and often characterized by caste-based voting. Instead, the ruling Congress party scored a decisive victory and its United Progressive Alliance is set to return to power. The reform candidates, usually running as independents, tried to appeal to India's rising middle class, which dominates the business world but has never voted in large numbers. But Saturday's results showed that other than those backed by big political parties, reform candidates performed poorly, suggesting that the middle class remains a relatively weak force in Indian politics. In part it is because they are massively outnumbered by poor, rural voters but also because they continue to stay away from the polls. Around 46% of the candidates that ran this year were independents. That is the highest percentage in 13 years. Of the 3,150 independent candidates that ran in the national election, early election results suggest less than 10 have won. We did not expect to do very well, said Mona Shah a surgeon who lost running for the Professionals Party of India a party that was created to represent India's middle class. What we have achieved is visibility The number of independents running climbed 32% from the previous election in 2004 spurred by concerns about governance and corruption and frustration that India's government is not keeping up with the evolution of the private sector.

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An independent candidate for the upcoming general elections G.R.Gopinath speaks at the launch of his election symbol, the Kite, in Bangalore, India, Saturday, April 11, 2009.
G. R. Gopinath

While they earned a lot of attention from the English language media, most of the independent reform candidates failed to get many votes. Among losing reform candidates were: G. R. Gopinath, managing director of Deccan Aviation, who founded India's largest low-cost airline, running for Parliament from Bangalore; Meera Sanyal, country executive of ABN Amro Bank, running in Mumbai South; and businessman Ajay Goyal, running in Chandigarh.After bei ng terrorized during the Mumbai attacks down the street from her home, middle-class voter Ila Rallan registered to vote for the first time in the more than 10 years she has been eligible. She was tempted by the candidate Ms. Sanyal because of her business background and an understanding of middle-class voters. But in the end Ms. Rallan went with the candidate from the ruling Congress party, figuring he had a better chance of bringing about change from within the system. The blasts showed us how inefficient government has been and that there are issues that have not been dealt with, says Ms. Rallan, who helps manage her family business. But I think having a party behind somebody is more important if you need a voice in Parliament and want to pass bills. the typical  middle class is still a minority and most don't vote. In swanky South Mumbai, where the late November attacks killed more than 160, only 40% of eligible voters voted, down from 44% in the last election in 2004. The turnout also dipped nation wide. 56.7% of eligible voters voted compared to 57.6% last election. Mumbai voters weren't scared of more attacks  they were indifferent. As they were given a day off for polls, many just used it to stretch a long weekend and left town. The typical middle class attitude is that politics is a very dirty activity and people with education and values don't go into politics, said Shashi Tharoor, a former Under Secretary General of the United Nations who stood for a parliamentary seat in the southern state of Kerala with the ruling Congress party. They cannot be bothered to stand in the sun to vote. Even his mother and grandmother didn't want him to get involved politics. Still, Mr. Tharoor is considered one of the potential new political voices of the middle class. He chose to run with the Congress party for a better chance of winning.Tho  ugh Mr. Tharoor was a first time voter and first-time candidate this election, he won the contest for a seat in Parliament in the southern state of Kerala. He said he did it by reaching out to the rural and poor voters as urban voters make up less than 40% of his constituency. Corporate and professional candidates, campaigning without parties to promote reform on their own, however, did not fare as well. Professional independent candidates cannot be taken seriously, says Mahesh Rangarajan, a history professor at Delhi University. Excellence in arts, science or business does not qualify you for excellence in politics or give you the ability to communicate, comprehend or solve people's problems. Money is also important to run a campaign. Most independent candidates do not have access to the kind of money that political parties have unless they are wealthy enough to fund themselves. And often voters won't give them the thumbs up because they have not put in the kind of time required in the electoral process, says Mr. Rangarajan. Voters want to know what their candidates have done for them and not just what they plan to do. Most independents do not have a track record in public service to point to. Despite the defeats, reform candidates say this is just the beginning. Most plan to continue to be involved in politics and come back next elections with more support, more money and their own parties. We didn't win those 100,000 votes but we did win in raising issues for the city,said Manjeet Kripalani, spokeswoman for the campaign for banker candidate, Ms. Sanyal. She has done a monumental job of raising issues and putting issues on the table. It is the first step in a long journey.

 In January, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handed over the reins of power to a deputy as he underwent heart bypass surgery. It seemed an apt metaphor for a leader struggling to deal with the aftermath of the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai and a rapidly slowing Indian economy. On Saturday, however, Mr. Singh was firmly back in control as his Congress Party turned in a surprisingly big victory in national elections that were held over the past month. The triumph virtually assures Mr. Singh a return to the prime minister's residence at 7 Race Course Road in New Delhi, if, as expected, India's president invites Congress to form the next government in the world's largest democracy. Manmohan Singh will be our prime minister, said Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress party, at a televised press conference with Mr. Singh. Mr. Singh, in typically low-key fashion, spoke at the same conference in such a quiet voice that his two minutes of remarks were inaudible over the din of the press corps and he was forced to return to the microphone to repeat them. The public has expressed faith in Congress, he mumbled.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, left, and Rahul Gandhi wave to supporters during an election campaign rally in the northern Indian city of Amritsar May 11.Singh hspace0

Analysts said the elderly and sober Mr. Singh and the young and more dynamic Rahul Gandhi, Ms. Gandhi's 38-year-old son, offered an appealing mix to voters at a time of economic uncertainty and amid widespread dissatisfaction with traditional politics here. Mr. Singh, 76 years old, was an architect of India's economic reforms in 1991 that are credited with setting the nation on course for the economic boom it has enjoyed over the past few years but which is now slowing. He also is widely admired for his honesty in a system where bribery of politicians and voters is commonplace and more than 1,000 political candidates in the national elections faced criminal charges. It is an endorsement of the programs and policies initiated by Manmohan Singh, said Sanjay Kumar, fellow at the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. He is an absolute leader and will surely be the prime minister who will continue to be in office for the next five years unless his health fails him. During the election campaign, Ms. Gandhi and her son went to great lengths to scotch speculation that Mr. Gandhi would seek to usurp the prime minister's position from Mr. Singh after the election. Mr. Gandhi is the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty which has ruled India for many of its 62 years of independence. The resounding Congress victory is likely to ensure Mr. Singh will hold the top spot, at least for the foreseeable future. As votes were counted Saturday, Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance were projected to win about 260 seats. The next largest bloc was held by the National Democratic Alliance, led by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, with an estimated 160 vote. The UPA will need to seal the support of 272 seats in Parliament to ensure a majority but that seemed eminently achievable given its trouncing of the NDA.  Singh will face two key questions when he returns to office. Whether to pave the ground for a handover of power to Mr. Gandhi at some point during his five-year term? And how to stimulate the economy, either through massive new spending plans or reforms that would open India further to foreign competition? The answer on Mr. Gandhi will likely depend on what role the younger politician now takes in the next government. His political stock will be high. Mr. Singh said at the press conference with Ms. Gandhi that he would try to get Mr. Gandhi to be a minister in the next Cabinet. If he assumes a Cabinet seat and performs well, there is a possibility Mr. Singh will step aside as prime minister to give Mr. Gandhi the office before the next election, which must be held within five years. For now, though, the size of the victory favored Mr. Singh for a full term. India has voted for a stable government and Manmohan Singh will definitely continue to be the prime minister, said K. Subrahmanyam, former convener of the National Security Advisory Board. Congress and Manmohan Singh will continue to be in power for the next five years on the basis of their strength. Mr. Singh is viewed as pro-liberalization politician, largely thanks to his role in mapping out market-opening policies in the early 1990s. His record as prime minister for the past five years has been dented that somewhat, however, because the UPA government effectively stalled on economic reforms beyond opening the telecommunications and aviation sectors. There were no new major privatizations and broad restrictions remain to foreign investment in areas such as retail, the media and financial services. Inflexible labor policies also are widely criticized by business as hampering growth opportunities. Mr. Singh and his government were effectively hampered by the support they depended on from anti-reform Left and Communist parties. Those parties quit the government last summer in opposition to India's deal with the U.S. on civilian nuclear technology transfer the signature achievement of Mr. Singh's five years in office.  Now, it appears likely that the UPA can win a mandate to govern even without the so-called Left Front, whose leaders have conceded they intend to sit in the opposition. That will give the new government wider flexibility in pursuing economic reforms. If the UPA comes back without the constraints of the Left Front, it will be received very positively by the business community, said Arun Duggal, former chief executive in India for Bank of America. There are some further reforms which have been in the works which will be executed, in insurance and retail in particular. He added: They seem to have concluded that foreign direct investment from strategic investors as well as financial investors is one way to enhance the growth rate of India. Mr. Singh also has suggested during the election campaign that there was more room for government stimulus of the economy, even though the government is already running a substantial fiscal deficit. Mr. Singh, who earned honors from Cambridge University in economics and a doctorate from Oxford, has long been regarded as one of India's most talented technocrats if also one of its most unassuming. I am neither given to exaggeration nor am I known to be self-congratulatory Mr. Singh said in a speech to Parliament last year. His re-election is likely to be welcomed by the new administration in the White House. He has been a big driver of improved relations between the U.S. and India after decades of mutual suspicion as India tilted toward the Soviet Union. Mr. Singh had a close working relationship with former President George W. Bush, most obviously in their decision to pursue the nuclear deal that was sealed last year. The deal was viewed as a landmark event in India's emergence as a key commercial global power. Mr. Singh's government also has been working closely with the administration of President Barack Obama on the new U.S. plan to bring peace and stability to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S.  special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, recently was in New Delhi where he noted India's critical role.We can't settle issues like Afghanistan and many other issues without India's full involvement, Mr. Holbrooke said. India is a vital leader in the region, added Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Mr. Holbrooke.

India's Communists lost so many seats Saturday in their stronghold states of West Bengal and Kerala that their leaders are going to have to change their policies.
[Left rally] Activists of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) march during an election campaign rally in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata May 10, 2009.

The so-called Left Front comprising of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other leftist parties were leading in the races for only 25 seats in India's lower house of Parliament. That is 34 fewer seats than the Left Front won in the last elections in 2004. The Communist Party of India Marxist and Left have suffered a major loss, Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) told reporters in New Delhi. This necessitates action and re-thinking. A weaker Left could mean more economic revamping for India. The Left, which supported the ruling coalition for most of the last five years, has consistently opposed economic reforms such as privatization, the easing of restrictions on foreign ownership, and the easing of labor laws. Last July, Communist and other left wing parties withdrew their support from the ruling coalition to protest a pact on nuclear civilian technology transfer with the U.S. The government still survived a no confidence vote and went ahead with the deal, leaving the Left out of the government. The backlash against the Left came from mismanagement and from their pursuit of outdated policies in New Delhi such as bashing the west and the Indian nuclear deal with the U.S., analysts said. In the eastern state of West Bengal, one of the biggest issues was land. The Communist controlled state government has been forcing some farmers off their land to make way for industry. The highest profile land battle was over the land acquired by Tata Motors Ltd. to build the world's cheapest car, the Nano. The plans had to be shelved after months of protest over the plant. The Trinamool Congress Party, led by firebrand politician Mamata Banerjee, led the protests and has been rewarded for its efforts. It was projected to have won 19 seats in the lower house, up from only one in the last election. It's over for the Communists. It's over, said Derek O'Brian, a leader of the Trinamool Congress party from the celebrations in front of Ms. Banerjee's home in Kolkata. They have lost the connection to the people. We were with the people and the people were with us. Kerala, a tropical state of 32 million people is struggling with the global downturn as thousands of its citizens return home from good paying jobs abroad. The state is dependent on income from the Persian Gulf because it exports so many laborers there. It's been hammered by sinking oil prices and a construction industry implosion in places like Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait. Congress and its allies were projected to win 12 seats of the 20 available from the state. There are few jobs to come home to though. While Communists' policies have led to a literacy rate is more than 90%, the state's militant labor unions, frequent strikes, and anti-Western policies, have scared off many investors and hurt growth. Running in the state capital, Congress party candidate Shashi Tharoor, had never run or even voted before and he won against a veteran communist opponent. The author and former Under Secretary General of the United Nations said even he was surprised by the margin by which he won. It's just unbelievable. Better results than all of our guesses, he said.Wherever the government has been deficient, the voters have turned on mass against it.

A resounding defeat for the Bharatiya Janata Party in India's elections has put a big question mark on the future of a party that already has spent five years in opposition: Who's going to take the reins?

L.K. Advani speaks during his election campaign rally in Uluberia, about 40 km west of Kolkata, on April 29.Lal Krishna Advani

The BJP's figurehead and prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, is 81 years old, and BJP officials say he will step down soon now that the right-wing party has been defeated soundly by the ruling Congress party. But Mr. Advani has not named a successor for his post, leaving the future in doubt for the country's largest opposition group.

We didn't expect such results, said Sushma Swaraj, a senior BJP leader in a television interview. The "BJP concedes defeat. It's a disappointing place to be for a party that had several factors pointing its way in these election an ailing economy, last year's Mumbai terror attacks and India's long history of kicking incumbents out of power. But with the BJP and its allies projected to win only about 160 seats compared to around 260 for Congress and its allies, the party has hit a low point, leaving Mr. Advani's successor with the unenviable task of trying to resurrect it, party officials say. A leading frontrunner for the job is Narendra Modi, the 58-year-old chief minister of Gujarat state. His strongly nationalist stance has made him a popular figure among the BJP's far-right elements, and he's drawn admiration for his record of development in the state. In the last five years, under Mr. Modi's tenure, Gujarat averaged over 10% annual growth and became one of India's most industrialized states. In the elections, Mr. Modi's popularity in the state helped the BJP recoup at least one bright spot. In Gujarat, initial reports pointed to the party taking 19 out of 26 seats, up from the 14 it won in 2004. But Mr. Modi's extreme nationalism and divisiveness may also be his biggest sticking points. In 2002, while he was chief minister, communal riots in Gujarat left 2000 dead, mostly Muslims, over a period of weeks. Critics allege that Mr. Modi's government did little to stem the bloodshed and may have even assisted Hindu attackers with electoral rolls showing where Muslims lived. Mr. Modi, who is now under an investigation mandated by the Supreme Court over his actions during that time, has never publicly apologized for the violence under his watch.That  legacy, along with his far-right stance on minorities and national security, would make Mr. Modi an unpopular leader outside the BJP bastion of Gujarat, critics say. More importantly, moderate BJP members and party allies crucial to forming a governing coalition in India's fractured politics are looking askance at Mr. Modi themselves. What happened in Gujarat should never have happened, Nitish Kumar, head of the Janata Dal (United) party, chief minister of the state of Bihar and a key BJP ally, said last week. However much we criticize, it will never be enough. The Gujarat blot can never be erased. Still, taking a stronger turn to Hindu nationalism under Mr. Modi may win the BJP more seats next time, some right-wing politicians say. They point to 29-year-old Varun Gandhi, who shot to fame after allegedly being caught on tape shouting anti-Muslim slurs in a campaign speech. An estranged cousin of Congress heir Rahul Gandhi, the BJP's Mr. Gandhi won a parliamentary seat Saturday from Uttar Pradesh state, though he is still under criminal proceedings for the allegations of hate speech. He claims the video was doctored. Even with the larger-than-expected defeat, the BJP moved Saturday to tamp down speculation about the party's future. The election results give no reason for BJP to reconsider its ideological positions, said BJP strategist Arun Jaitley. Still, Mr. Modi's rise may be inevitable. During the campaign, top BJP leaders, including Mr. Advani, supported the notion that Mr. Modi could lead the party in the next elections and Mr. Modi played a prominent role in the recent campaign. There is no fight in the party over Modiji ji is a honorific title in Hindi being projected as the future prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Advani said last month while campaigning in Gujarat. I am proud of the fact that ours is a party where a second line of leadership is ready and which has aspirants for the coveted post.While Mr. Modi is the most talked-about, party officials say others are on the shortlist for the BJP's top post, including Shivraj Singh Chauhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state. Mr. Advani has spoken highly the 50-year-old and added policies from Mr. Chauhan to the party's national platform, including handing out cash to each girl who completes a high school education.



Edited by jagdu - 16 May 2009 at 4:36pm
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Posted: 18 May 2009 at 3:25pm | IP Logged
A surprisingly strong showing by India's ruling Congress party gives a decisive mandate to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and raises hopes that an important engine of the developing world will continue on a path of economic reforms. A day after securing the largest number of seats in Parliament of any single party, the Indian National Congress said it expects to present a new coalition government to India's president by midweek. Ministerial slots will begin to fill soon after that. A government with a convincing majority, unshackled from communist political allies of the past, was viewed as crucial at a time when officials are expected to explore fresh approaches to spurring India's economy, reforming its archaic labor laws and perhaps opening it further to global capital flows.
Congress party supporters in Allahabad on Sunday celebrate their surprisingly easy victory in national elections.
Congress party supporters in Allahabad on Sunday celebrate their surprisingly easy victory in national elections.The best thing is that the Left has been left behind. This is great news for the markets, and we are going to see strong foreign inflows into the country, said Arun Kejriwal, founder and managing director of Kejriwal Research & Investment Services Pvt. Ltd. But economic reforms in India have a history of moving at a slower pace than investors desire, no matter which political party is in charge. Moreover, the world economic crisis has reaffirmed the views of many politicians and technocrats that the go-slow approach has helped insulate the Indian economy from the vicissitudes of global capitalism.
Caste and Creed

The past few years have seen a significant waning in the influence of the Congress, which has long dominated Indian politics, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, its principal opposition. In the latest Parliament elected in 2004 the 545 seats were divvied up among 35 political parties, 15 more than in 1984, many of them formed solely on the basis of caste or creed. We are not happy, a Bahujan Samaj Party said. We were expecting many seats. Ms. Mayawati has cancelled a planned visit to Delhi.[SB124245012832026487] hspace0A man celebrated election results in front of the headquarters of the Congress Party in New Delhi Saturday.

By the latest tally, the Congress-ruled United Progressive Alliance had won about 260 seats (of the 272 required to win by clear majority), compared with about 160 seats for its rival, the National Democratic Alliance, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The resounding defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party has put a big question mark on the future of a party that already has spent five years in opposition: Who's going to take the reins? Mr. Advani has not named a successor.

Business-Friendly Policies

The BJP had attempted to reach out to new parts of India by trumpeting a blend of business friendly policies and technology-driven growth in rural and urban areas. Yet critics say the party's Hindu nationalist identity proved too polarizing. BJP officials conceded defeat, and acknowledged a failure to win voter trust in key states. Some refused to view the result as a broader rebuke to the party platform, however. video 

After elections Saturday Indian voters show excitement for young Congress.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the race is the Gandhi family and its scion, Rahul Gandhi. The 38-year-old, a descendent of three Indian prime ministers and son of the Congress party's president, Sonia Gandhi, drafted a brigade of young candidates and spearheaded the recruitment of campaign workers to support them. Cold electoral math shaped the strategy -- about 70% of people in India are under 40 years old.

Youth Strategy

Although the political opposition and some analysts doubted young people would flock to any one party, Congress officials said the strategy paid off. About 80% of the contestants from the Congress party's youth wing were successful in their elections, according to Ashok Tanwar, who heads India's Youth Congress and who won a parliamentary seat of his own from the northern state of Haryana. Rahul Gandhi is our general and we are his soldiers, said Mr. Tanwar. Now Mr. Gandhi, who also won a landslide victory in his own constituency in Uttar Pradesh state, must decide whether to parlay that political triumph into a powerful position in government. He has said he prefers to continue working with the party's youth wing for another two years but could consent to the prime minister's request to join the cabinet. Like Mr. Gandhi, most of the young Congress politicians harped on a message of inclusive development, and largely stayed clear of fractious issues of caste and religion. Putting younger people in top leadership positions would reward that approach, said Sachin Pilot, a 31-year-old member of Parliament from the western state of Rajasthan who was re-elected Saturday. It's natural that there would be fresher faces. It's what the voters want, said Mr. Pilot, who holds a master's in business administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Young people have transcended the divisions of caste and religion, he added. If the Congress party does offer top positions to its younger members, it would mark a break from the recent past. After the Congress party won the 2004 elections, Ms. Gandhi turned to a band of aging loyalists to run key ministries. Several of them stumbled or resigned in trouble.

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Thanks for the articles and updates on election results, Jagdu!  I was out of town over the weekend, and heard the others in our group saying that the Congress had a big victory, but I had to wait till today to find out what happened.  I am glad the people chose to ignore the divisive caste politics and voted for the economy instead.
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Posted: 19 May 2009 at 10:11am | IP Logged
The secretary general of FICCI, the influential Indian business organization, on Tuesday added his voice to the debate about which reforms the new government is likely to act on quickly, singling out pensions and insurance as the most obvious areas. In an interview, Amit Mitra, secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said a bill already had been submitted to Parliament that would give increased powers to India's pension regulator and that reviving the bill could be among the early reforms of the new administration. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought to give a push to the economic reforms saying India could not afford to lag behind the rising economies of the East. We cannot afford to miss the bus now, he said pointing out that many nations in Asia were marching ahead and the world was experiencing a shift. Indian stock benchmarks surged more than 17% Monday as investors cheered a decisive election victory by the Congress Party-led coalition, with trading halted and then suspended for the day as the deluge of buy orders trigged market circuit-breakers. The election in India is showing a clear mandate there, and probably underlines to a lot of investors there that is going to be the growth area for the next six to nine months.
[India stock markets] 

India's benchmark share index is displayed on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai May 18, 2009.

Minutes after the opening, the the 30-stock Sensitive Index, or Sensex, rose 10.7%  while the National Stock Exchange Nifty rose 14.5%, triggering a two-hour trading suspension. Immediately at the resumption of trade, they surged further, prompting a trading suspension for the rest of the day. The Sensex closed 17.3% higher at 14284.21, while the 50-stock S&P CNX Nifty rallied 17.7% to 4323.15.  A pro-reform/stable government is just what India needs, amid signs of economic expectations bottoming out, to inspire investor confidence. The stability of the newly-elected government, rather than the coalition dynamics, would be crucial for sentiment. Some participants and analysts were disappointed. Sharmila Joshi, an investment adviser in Mumbai, said I have never seen anything like this These kind of gap-up openings are ultimately bad for the market, as they don't give one a chance to participate. Today, it was impossible to participate. Among the big gainers, shares of market heavyweight Reliance Industries climbed 20.6% and ICICI Bank advanced 25.4%, while property major DLF gained 25.9%. The local currency also surged, with the U.S. dollar recently down to 47.96 rupees from a previous close of 49.38 rupees. Morgan Stanley raised its earnings estimate and Sensex targets after the poll outcome. Analysts there said they now expect the Sensex companies to post aggregate earnings growth of 2.5% this fiscal year, compared with a prior forecast of a 10% contraction. It raised its Sensex target for 2009 to 15,300. Saturday, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance secured 262 seats out of the 543 up for grabs, falling just short of the 272 majority mark but expected to muster that with support from smaller parties and independents. The outcome beat the most optimistic exit polls. There was quite a bit of shorting early on. What essentially happened is that combined with the positive news out of India, people turned more bullish. And then in the afternoon, a lot of people who put shorts in the morning were covering them.

In 1952, India went to polls for the first time. The scale of that exercise was staggering. One million square miles, an 85% illiterate population, around 5,000 seats contested locally and nationally. In three weeks spent on the campaign trail in southern India-thousands of miles away one witnessed an India that thrives as a democracy: still raucous, romantic and occasionally risible. Paper ballots have been replaced by electronic voting machines. Drumbeats across villages have given way to text messages across farmlands and urban malls alike. But the greatest shift has been the firm entrenchment of the idea that democratic processes are the sole legitimate form of government formation. It might sound so obvious a concept for the world's largest democracy, but this realization conflicts with the standardizing definitions that the Indian State imposes on its diverse polity. It is this conflict between the homogeneity of the State and the heterogeneity of the many Nations that live in it that marks the last 30 years of Indian politics. Caste and religion had begun to make a comeback as a legitimate locus around which Indians could organize themselves. Such identity-based political strategies had reaped spectacular electoral returns culminating in the Bharatiya Janata Party led coalition government. In The state of Kerala, in southern India, there was one more added complication: the presence of an active, relevant and very powerful Leftist ideological superstructure. Shashi Tharoor jumped into this pool of historical discontent as a candidate of the Indian National Congress to be the Member of Parliament of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. To many this came as no surprise. However, while he was known as an author and an undersecretary general at the United Nations in his previous avatar, it was unclear how the rough and tumble of Indian politics would treat him. As a teenager and then a twentysomething who read his books keenly, Mr. Tharoor had always struck as a thoughtful and ambitious writer, who unlike most Indian intellectuals was proud of the achievements of the Indian State, while still being acutely aware of the complexities, compromises and cleavages that undermine it. That he would avoid armchair philosophizing about the ills of India and actually try to do something about it appealed. Mr. Tharoor represented a shard of possibility that the people of India, could in fact bring about change in the right direction however incremental it might be. His core staff comprised of other Keralities who came in from Liberia, Dubai, New York, California, Geneva and some of his family members from Kerala. It was evident all driven by our fondness for Mr. Tharoor and a slender hope that perhaps he might win, and bring about a more professional approach to politics.

[Shashi Tharoor] Shashi Tharoor on the campaign trail.
 
Less than four weeks to get a campaign going before election day on April 16th. Had no time to make mistakes and learn from them. While Mr. Tharoor had been living in Thiruvananthapuram for at least two years, he was competing against established party functionaries of the Left, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party all of whom had spent their lifetimes in Thiruvananthapuram. Understandably, the easiest accusation hurled against Mr. Tharoor was to paint him as an outsider and out of touch with the ordinary people. In more ways than one for a man who had spent his lifetime writing and visiting Kerala, this was an absurd allegation. And to boot, many of the campaign staff were outsiders. While at ease in every aspect of Kerala, the experiences in rest of the world had markedly changed in various small ways. Some computers had non-Indian dates and American spell-checkers. It seemed trite, but as the opposition launched a spectacularly cynical campaign it was clear no small detail could be overlooked.  In retrospect, the heartfelt candidness of Mr. Tharoor's response to this canard struck a chord. He argued vigorously that he was just like the millions of other Keralities whose family had left home in search of economic opportunities. After all, their sons and daughters, and perhaps they themselves, had left home in search of work, education and spent a lifetime sending money back home. More interestingly, with considerable aplomb, Mr. Tharoor inverted this accusation's thrust back at the Leftist government to highlight its abysmal record of economic development. Inequality had risen, prices were skyrocketing, land mafias had taken over major cities, militant labor had outrageous practices that hurt the middle classes of Kerala. In response to exposing their record, the Left accused him of being a Zionist agent, a polygamist, an American agent, a foreigner and horror of horrors, an intellectual! As his support staff, and with the naivete that we went in, all were enraged at the absurdity of it all. Some called for responding in kind. Others remained divided on what the appropriate response was since time was running short. Strangely enough, Mr. Tharoor advised calm and composure. His consistent belief that the intelligence of the average Indian voter would see through these sham accusations seemed falsely hopeful to some of the more hardened political minds in the campaign. Yet, he was clear. Instructions from Mr. Tharoor was to keep talking about development, about employment, about the declining infrastructure, about declining school standards and other social issues. For all the accusations of his foreignness, it was he who understood where and how the electorate had felt shortchanged.
[Shashi Tharoor] Congress party candidate Shashi Tharoor, center, celebrates with supporters his victory in the general elections, in Thiruvananthapuram, India, Saturday, May 16, 2009.

Like the other nine members of the core group, tasks varied from the most mundane mailing 3,000 envelopes to the seemingly mystifying negotiations with religious and social leaders who would talk about everything under the sun. Israel's incursion into Gaza, affirmative action, development, water, infectious diseases everything except explicitly calling their congregations to support Mr. Tharoor. Talks as his proxies was a curious dance between campaigners and electorate. Of need for their support and their need to ensure that we would stand up for them. What Mr. Tharoor had on his side was immense likeability. He could come across as a son, a friend, a brother and father figure to various members of Thiruvananthapuram's electorate. This defined the primary task  to enable and ensure Mr. Tharoor's voice could reach to the maximal parts of the constituency. creations of content: from trite musical productions, slick video displays, succinct text messages, elaborate email blasts, a comprehensive online presence, personal telephone messages for and from Mr. Tharoor. And Mr. Tharoor spoke in very competent Malayalam, native language, about local issues much to the dismay and amusement of the voters who had heard that he was a foreigner and couldn't speak Malayalam. For the more analytical types in the team campaigners conducted informal polls in Muslim areas, amongst the lower income and typically Leftist supporters. They could sense resentment against the status quo; but not the rising tide of Mr. Tharoor's popularity. While remaining unabashedly optimistic, there was an air of caution and skepticism.  There, was a microcosm of India in a manner in the campaign trail. How fragile public trust was and how many of our political leaders had squandered this precious gift. Cynicism abounds in Kerala - and with that cynicism emerges hardened ideological positions. Mr. Tharoor's great gift to the electorate was his ability to seemingly transcend the ideological divides - and argue about common good and development. On May 16, against considerable odds, Mr. Tharoor won by 99,998 votes. The support staff and family members returned to our private lives to the countries where working. Mr. Tharoor will move to New Delhi to be a member of the Indian Parliament, that august assembly of collective dreams. To bring half as much change as his voters hope, he will have to work twice as hard. To paraphrase Mao, democracy is not a dinner party. Should he need he can be rest assured that people will still be around for him and India. His fellow outsiders. We, the people.

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Posted: 20 May 2009 at 10:37am | IP Logged
India, the world's largest importer of gold, turned net exporter for the first time, exporting 20 metric tons during the quarter ended Mar. 31, the World Gold Council said Wednesday. Inflation projected at 0.1 pc in 2009-10: The average inflation during 2009-10 is projected to remain negligible at just 0.1 per cent as against 8.3 per cent in 2008-09, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said in its monthly review here. Larsen & Toubro Ltd. said it signed an initial pact with U.S.-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to build nuclear reactors in India. The two companies will build nuclear reactors based on GE Hitachi's advanced boiling water reactor technology, Larsen said in a statement to the Bombay Stock Exchange. They expect also to locally produce reactor equipment and systems as well as electrical. Hoping to ride the buzz of Oscar winner "Slumdog Millionaire" and growing  awareness of Bollywood, some marketers are planning promotions specifically targeted at Indian Americans. Insurer State Farm in June is sponsoring a karaoke contest in which consumers can upload videos to a Web site where viewers vote on two finalists. The prize: a trip to India to sing in a Bollywood film. IFC, part of Cablevision's Rainbow Media Holdings, is developing a special marketing plan to promote its new mini-series "Bollywood Hero," starring comedian Chris Kattan, which will debut this summer.Newly elected Congress party lawmakers on Tuesday formally chose Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as their leader for a second term, clearing the way for the swearing in of his new government this week. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party chief, proposed Mr. Singh's name, and lawmakers approved it without a vote amid clapping and thumping of desks, said Janardhan Dwivedy. Mr. Singh is expected to meet President Pratibha Patil to set a date for his swearing in. The president administers the oath of office to the new prime minister and Cabinet ministers. The Congress-led coalition captured 261 seats in India's 543-seat Parliament, 11 short of a majority. Two key regional parties Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party, which together will control 43 seats offered to support Mr. Singh's government. An economist and technocrat, Mr. Singh shifted India away from decades of socialist-style policies and toward a more open economy when he was finance minister in the early 1990s. But over the past five years, many additional market overhauls that Congress backed were blocked by communist parties. In this year's election, the communists lost more than half their seats. With a free hand, Mr. Singh is likely to open India's insurance, retail and banking sectors to greater foreign investment. The nation's pension regulator could also get proper legal standing, which would also encourage investment. And some steps might be taken to loosen labor laws. A third of India's nearly 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty and more than 90% work in informal, unorganized sectors. In his last term, Mr. Singh oversaw a costly initiative to guarantee employment for the poor in rural India and alleviate farmer debt. But those programs have added to the nation's onerous fiscal deficit and antagonized factory owners. Investors looking to grab a piece of the action in India's stock market may want to think about exchange-traded funds and notes. The Indian stock market surged 17% Monday after the Congress party scored a victory in the general election, as investors saw the outcome as leading to increased investment amid hopes of stability and reform. The Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensitive Index edged up 0.1% Tuesday following a volatile session. I think the market still has the potential to go up by another 10% to 15%, said Deven Choksey. No Huawei, ZTE products in sensitive zones, DoT tells BSNL In a bid to address the concerns raised by security agencies against Chinese vendors supplying equipment to Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, the Department of Telecom has asked the State owned company not to procure equipment henceforth from Huawei and ZTE for setting up network in sensitive areas. DoT has also asked BSNL to conduct security audit
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Indian airlines are looking to the country's new government to help them soar again. They may find themselves stuck on the tarmac. The industry is expected to have lost as much as $2 billion in the year that ended in March. That's nearly one-third of the $6 billion analysts expect the aviation industry lost worldwide last year. Having sacrificed profitability on the market share altar, the airlines now have a long wish-list for government aid. The return of the Congress Party-led coalition to power in New Delhi opens the door for the Obama administration to forge a more ambitious agenda with India than either Presidents Clinton or Bush envisioned. But Washington must act quickly lest the moment vanishes. The Indian election ends several months of diplomatic stasis between India and the United States, the result of elections in both countries. Both leaders now have strong mandates. Confounding pundits who were virtually unanimous in predicting a fractured mandate, Indian voters gave Congress more seats than any single party in nearly two decades. They also weakened the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and trounced the Communists, whose seats in parliament are at a three-decade low. These results primarily represent a vote for governance, stability and inclusive growth, but they also implicitly endorse Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's stances on economic liberalization and closer ties with Washington. Last summer Mr. Singh staked his government on a civil nuclear energy agreement with the U.S. bitterly opposed by Communists, who withdrew their parliamentary support for the government over the issue. With the Communists now politically irrelevant, the new coalition government can pursue a deeper relationship with the U.S. unencumbered by ideological baggage. Admittedly, the timing is not exactly propitious. With the Obama administration's first few months consumed by a financial crisis and two wars, the longer-term but no less important priorities- including India have had to wait. India is a long-term strategic play. Nonetheless, Assured a supportive partner in Mr. Singh, Mr. Obama should move swiftly to set the agenda his administration will pursue. To begin with, building on yeoman work by previous administrations, government-to-government cooperation in security, intelligence and trade, among others  must be deepened. But to take the relationship to a new level, both governments should leverage their best asset, the two countries' increasingly intertwined and innovative private sectors, to tackle complex global problems like climate change or agricultural productivity, to name just two. If we dream big, the impact of this two-track cooperation will be felt throughout the world. Take security cooperation. In recent years, Washington and New Delhi have initiated high-level dialogues and undertaken joint military exercises. Recent Indian purchases of American military aircraft, a watershed for a country whose chief arms suppliers are Russia and Israel, are a harbinger for a closer relationship. Cooperation against transnational threats such as terrorism and piracy and on humanitarian relief operations such as those that followed the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia are natural areas for the next phase. Thinking beyond the military, India and the U.S. should extend local-level exchanges, like the New York police's work with counterparts after the Mumbai attacks last November. Deepening this cooperation on security and crafting a world-class counterterror relationship depends on much greater intelligence sharing, begun since Mumbai. Formal personnel exchanges, regular frank (even argumentative) dialogue, and the technology to share sensitive information must be expanded or put into place, with a plan that leads eventually to India's inclusion in English-language intelligence networks that form the bedrock of our most important security relationships. No major economic challenge can be addressed without India  slated to beat the global recession by growing at 5.1% this year and 6.5% next year according to the International Monetary Fund and Washington should do everything possible to expand all levels of economic coordination and consultation with New Delhi. On global trade, where India and the U.S. still disagree most vehemently on agriculture markets and farmer subsidies the lack of an agreement between countries will hold the Doha round hostage. Cooperation is a must. In addition, finding solutions for challenging global problems, where U.S.-India partnership offers distinct advantages, requires looking beyond government. On pressing issues such as climate change or agricultural transformation, a key to delivering millions around the world out of poverty, both countries have particular scientific and management expertise. Reducing emissions requires new energy sources and better resource management to produce less waste. Washington and New Delhi must tap their citizens' research and development capabilities, and encourage large-scale collaboration with venture capitalists, who know how to commercialize innovation, to develop a vibrant partnership on renewable energy, emissions reduction and sustainability practices. As during the 1960s, when American and Indian scientists together helped end India's chronic food shortages, agriculture must be a focus for public-private partnership between our countries. Government incentives to build infrastructure such as roads and cold-chain storage can be married with private-sector expertise in supply-chain management and logistics, crop management innovation, financial services (such as insurance) for farmers and vocational skills training. As smallholder farms begin to flourish and are linked to new global markets for their produce, a second green revolution will transform the lives of one-quarter of the world's poor. (As with most metrics in India, the scale has the power to awe.) These examples only skim the surface of how the Obama administration can broaden the U.S.-India partnership. Whatever the issue, India stands out amid the greater region for its stable, plural, secular democracy, with solid economic growth, private sector dynamism, and a world-class knowledge sector. Unlike during the Cold War, when India flirted with socialism and the Soviet bloc, Washington and New Delhi now share compatible values and a convergent vision of the world. With big ambition and a focus on outcomes important to both countries, India and the U.S. can at last begin to realize the promise their relationship has long held.

Pakistan and India have begun sharing intelligence on Islamic extremists, with the prodding of the U.S., in an arrangement that represents unprecedented cooperation between the two nuclear-armed South Asian nations. Washington hopes the cooperation will get a lift from last week's Indian elections, in which the incumbent Congress Party won by a wide margin over a Hindu nationalist party traditionally more hostile to Pakistan. With the Congress party's recent win in India's elections, The time may be right for longtime rivals Pakistan and India to forge an alliance that allows for greater intelligence sharing with the U.S.  The Central Intelligence Agency arranged for Pakistan and India to share information on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group widely blamed for last November's terrorist attack on Mumbai. The U.S. is stressing to Indian and Pakistani leaders that they face a common threat in Pakistan-based militant groups. Washington hopes that when India sees the intelligence and evidence that Islamabad is seriously fighting the militants in some areas, it will ease its deployments against Pakistan which in turn would prompt Islamabad to put even more focus on the battle at home. We have to satisfy the Mumbai question, and show India that the threat is abating, said U.S.. India and Pakistan traded military threats across their border in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, in which terrorists left more than 170 people dead. Pakistan banned Lashkar and detained six people in connection with the attack, partially mollifying Indian outrage. Intelligence sharing on Mumbai has led to a somewhat more frequent exchange of information, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. India and Pakistan have shared a lot of information with each other about the Mumbai attack, said an official at Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. He said the CIA was initially used as a conduit but the two countries now work directly with each other, while keeping the CIA in the loop. India and Pakistan are sharing intelligence on Islamic militants, with U.S. help. India gets: Information on groups that threaten it, including the one that carried out the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan gets: More trust from India that it is serious about taking on militants. A U.S. official said Washington isn't "under any illusions" about the difficulty of erasing decades-old suspicions between India and Pakistan, but sees some progress. U.S. officials hope that a calming of tensions can allow India's Congress Party government, strengthened by its election victory, to resume peace talks with Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. The Obama administration has been concerned that Lashkar could carry out a second strike on India in a bid to stoke a war. The CIA and other intelligence agencies are stepping up efforts in the Pakistani tribal areas, tapping and tracking the location of the cellphones of Taliban commanders as well as taking pictures and collecting information in their training camps, according to a person familiar with the efforts. The U.S. shares this information with Pakistan, and sometimes with India, to reinforce the U.S. argument that the Taliban threat to Pakistan is greater than the Indian threat. The U.S. also sometimes brings intelligence on Pakistan's efforts to combat militants to India's attention, with Pakistan's consent, this person said. Examples include showing Indian officials evidence of progress against militants in the Pakistani regions of Bajaur, Swat, and Buner. The government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is hoping that Congress's victory can also provide the Indian government with the political cover to move one or two divisions away from the Pakistan border in coming months, according to an official briefed on the diplomacy. But Indian officials say they aren't ready to do so. An Indian government official said New Delhi has documented an escalation of cross-border infiltrations by Pakistani militants into Kashmir.

Religious destinations in India

[India] hspace0 

The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra Festival.

Jagannatha

Location: Puri, India
Most frequented by: Hindus

Festivals are an important part of Hinduism, and Ratha Yatra is certainly one with a lot of pull and pulling. The celebration takes place in June or July of each year in Puri, a city on the southeastern coast of India. Why Puri? It's home to the 12th-century Jagannatha temple and three roughhewn (and highly sacred) wooden statues. They represent Jagannatha, an incarnation of the Hindu Lord Krishna; his brother, Balarama; and his sister, Subhadra. Hindus believe that around 5,000 years ago, devotees of Krishna pulled the chariots of these three siblings to the family's nearby childhood home. Each year, as many as 1 million faithful visit the temple to re-enact the event, dragging the statues in giant chariots. And we do mean giant: The largest is 45 feet high and sports 16 wheels. Devout Hindus believe if they help transport the chariot bearing Jagannatha, they will be granted the opportunity to serve him in the spiritual world. During Ratha Yatra, some of the more enthusiastic pullers have been known to deliberately throw themselves under the chariots' wheels. Fortunately, the frequency of this practice has waned in recent years, but the popularity of the festival certainly hasn't. In fact, those who can't make it to Puri for Ratha Yatra can participate in smaller versions in cities all over the world. And if you think Jagannatha bears significance for Hindus only, you're wrong. Turns out, the statue is credited with giving the English language the word "juggernaut." In the 17th century, British travelers returning from India brought back lurid (and highly exaggerated) tales of the festival in Puri, describing hordes of people being squashed by the chariots. "Juggernaut" is an Anglicization of Jagannatha, and the word has since come to mean "a massive, inexorable force that crushes everything in its path." That certainly describes a four-story-high chariot.

Sri Harmandir Sahib

[Golden Temple] Oil lamps lit and put in place by devotees, in the foreground of the Golden Temple, which was decorated with electric bulbs on the occasion of a festival in Amritsar, India.
Location: Amritsar, India
Most frequented by: Sikhs

Most Westerners know Sri Harmandir Sahib simply as "The Golden Temple," so named for its structures adorned with gold and gold paint. But to the world's roughly 20 million Sikhs, it's their religion's most sacred site. In fact, followers pray daily for a chance to visit the temple at least once during their lives. Sri Harmandir Sahib is in Amritsar, a city about 240 miles north of New Delhi. Built in the late 16th century, the temple's impressive architecture was designed to represent the magnificence and strength of the Sikh people. Sikhism itself is an offshoot of Hinduism founded about 500 years ago by Guru Nanak, a government accountant who rejected both Hinduism and Islam. The temple at Sri Harmandir Sahib occupies a small island in the middle of a pool and is connected to land by a marble causeway. Every year, it attracts millions of pilgrims. In 2004 alone, more than 2.5 million Sikhs visited The Golden Temple to take part in a five-day celebration marking its 400th anniversary. Sadly, however, the temple has also attracted its fair share of violence, including attacks and conquests by Mongol, Arab, Afghan, and British armies. Perhaps the most notable incident occurred in 1984. Sikh separatists, feeling oppressed by the Hindu-dominated Indian government and seeking an independent state, occupied the temple and refused to leave. When Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered soldiers and tanks to attack, more than 1,000 people were killed, and some of the buildings around the temple were badly damaged. Gandhi received scores of death threats and was assassinated a few months later by Sikh terrorists.

Shatrunjaya Hill

Location: Palitana, India
Most frequented by: Jains

Shatrunjaya Hill just might have been what Led Zeppelin had in mind when the band wrote "Stairway to Heaven." The site has no fewer than 3,950 steps'enough to make you think you can reach heaven (either by looking up or keeling over) by the time you actually get done climbing it. Located in the western Indian city of Palitana, Shatrunjaya (or Satrunjaya) Hill is the primary pilgrimage destination for followers of Jainism and home to 863 temples dedicated to the Jain religion. Founded in India about the same time as Buddhism, Jainism teaches the path to spiritual purity through a life of discipline, austerity, and non-violence. In fact, this aversion to violence has led many among India's Jain community (which consists of about four million people) to shun most occupations outside of commerce and finance. Jains not only frown upon killing people, but animals as well. For that reason, none of the temples at Palitana contain ivory (since that would mean dead elephants) or even clay (since it contains dead insects and micro-organisms). Instead, they're constructed of marble, bronze, or stone. So if you're going, don't wear anything made of fur, leather, or any other part of a dead animal. Oh, and about those steps up the Hill to the temples: It can take as long as three hours to climb up them, depending on your level of fitness. The elderly and ailing go up in a dholi, a small seat attached under a bamboo pole, carried by two men who take a few jouncing steps at a time. If ever an employee deserved a great tip, it would be one of these guys.

  [Tibet] hspace0  A Tibetan monk addresses other monks at Bodh Gaya. Bodh Gaya
Location: Bodh Gaya, India
Most frequented by: Buddhists For years, Siddhartha Gautama tried to find an end to human suffering through, well, human suffering. He nearly starved to death following a life of extreme self-denial. When that didn't work, he decided to try sitting under a tree and meditating. Luckily for him, after a few weeks, Gautama found Enlightenment'the understanding that suffering comes from desire and thereafter became known as Buddha. Thus began one of the world's great religions. In a nutshell, that's why an average of more than 2,000 people per day visit the small town in northeast India known as Bodh Gaya. For Buddhist pilgrims and tourists alike, there are two main attractions: the Mahabodhi Temple, a pyramid-shaped building first erected in the 3rd century BCE; and the Bodhi Tree, said to be a direct descendant of the tree under which Buddha attained Enlightenment.Buddhists regard Bodh Gaya as the first place Buddha began teaching his reap-what-you-sow idea of karma. Ironically, the city has the unsavory reputation as the center of one of the poorest and most lawless regions in India
 
Tata Motors Ltd. Wednesday raised 42 billion rupees ($886.8 million) to repay part of the $3 billion financing taken for the acquisition of British luxury car brands, Jaguar and Land Rover last year. India's biggest auto maker by sales raised the money via the issue of secured non-convertible local currency debentures in four phases. Tata Motors, which acquired Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. last year, took the $3 billion bridge loan last year. It has already repaid $1.11 billion to the banks from funds it raised via a rights issue. Tata Steel Ltd. expects its sales volume in India to grow 25% and profit margins to remain healthy" in the current fiscal year that began April 1, its managing director said. However, the world's sixth-biggest steel maker by capacity expects the current global economic downturn to continue. Indian steel demand is expected to go up by 6%-7% this year.


Edited by jagdu - 21 May 2009 at 4:06pm

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